Epidemiologist Profile – Bhuma Krishnamachari, Ph.D.
Bachelor’s in cell biology from University of Illinois, Champaign, 1997
Master’s in human genetics and immunology from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 1999
Master’s in genetic counseling from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2003
Ph.D. in epidemiology from University of Illinois, Chicago, 2011
Bhuma Krishnamachari has been interested in chronic diseases since the first grade, when her teacher read the class the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, about a young girl who has leukemia. This sparked her interested in cancer, eventually leading to her career as a cancer genetic counselor for institutions including the University of Minnesota and Loyola University Medical Center. During this time, Krishnamachari also became interested in chronic adult disease epidemiology, including the epidemiology of cancer and neuromuscular disorders. Since earning her Ph.D. in epidemiology, she has worked at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, first as Director of Clinical Research and currently as Assistant Dean of Research.
Question: What drew you to the field of epidemiology?
Krishnamachari: "In the clinical setting, we often quote a lot of numbers to patients. We routinely tell them their chances of developing a disease, or their chance of survival. As I was quoting the risks of developing cancer to patients based on their hereditary cancer genetic mutations, I started to become very interested in where these numbers come from. I realized the numbers are derived through clinical epidemiology studies and statistics based off these studies, and I wanted to play a role in helping to develop those studies."
Question: Why did you continue to pursue advanced degrees in the field? How has that benefited you in your career?
Krishnamachari: "The advanced degrees, and in particular my doctorate, provided me with a rigorous training in research study design and analysis. I pursued the doctorate because I was genuinely interested in epidemiology and wanted as much training as possible in the field. It has benefitted my career in the sense that running a clinical research program requires that the individual in charge have an in-depth and broad knowledge of the field of research Ä this is hard to do without a doctoral level degree in the field."
Question: What do you enjoy about your work? What challenges, developments or successes keep it exciting to you?
Krishnamachari: "I enjoy the fact that medicine in an ever-changing field, and that the field of epidemiology is actually what keeps it changing. Because there are epidemiologists who conduct clinical studies on a daily basis, knowledge about medicine is continually transformed and this is then carried into the clinic, in terms of how physicians manage their patients. What is so exciting is that we only gain knowledge we never lose it. Thus, epidemiology is forever advancing clinical care."
Question: What advice do you have for people just starting their education or their professional career who are considering going into advanced healthcare practices?
Krishnamachari: "I suggest diving into the clinical setting through volunteer work and internships. This will provide a ‘real’ look into the healthcare world. In the process, it is really important to speak to as many people as possible within the healthcare world. Every person has a different perspective, different talents and a different approach to their career. There is no single recipe for a successful career as an epidemiologist."